Safeguard Mobile App Produces Nearly-Immediate Results
On July 7, Crain’s Cleveland Business published an article titled Property Inspections are Safe, and Instant, with Safeguard’s New Mobile App.
Property inspections are safe, and instant, with Safeguard’s new mobile app
Safeguard produces mobile application that files results almost immediately
In the business of property preservation, a single-day lag between a property inspection and a report of the findings can leave an abandoned home vulnerable to vandalism, animals, insects, and frozen — and burst — pipes.
Using technology it says it has spent millions of dollars to develop, Safeguard Properties in Valley View has ramped up its real-time reporting of property conditions.
More than 70% of the more than 1 million inspections Safeguard contractors perform in any given month now are reported within minutes of the inspections via a mobile app the company has developed; that’s up from roughly 5% of reports submitted via the app this time last year, said George Mehok, Safeguard’s chief information officer.
Safeguard employs contractors across the county to inspect and maintain defaulted and foreclosed properties for lenders, mortgage servicers and other financial institutions.
Introduced after two years of development in late 2011 and modified since then, the mobile app replaces for those contractors who use it the filing of reports on a laptop in the field, or by desktop computer at the end of the day. Instead, they are tapping the touch screen of their smart phones to file reports as they go.
The app also eliminates the need to carry a camera and later connect it to a computer, because it prompts contractors to take images with their smart phones and attaches the images to their reports.
The app, which is compatible with Apple and Android operating systems, requests information real-time as a contractor reports that certain conditions at a property exist. As a result, it helps eliminate the frequency with which contractors might file a report only to realize they need to return to a property because they neglected to inspect or photograph something.
“We have a mobile work force, so this is perfect,” Mr. Mehok said. “A lot of the business is timing.”
The app means inspection results, in most cases, reach clients 24 hours faster than they might have before, Mr. Mehok said, which should translate into better- preserved properties. And it has proven compelling enough to one mortgage servicer that, in the last month, the company started paying to use the app. (A Safeguard spokeswoman wouldn’t identify the company.)
Unlike third-party mobile apps with similar functions, Safeguard’s app is tailored specifically to the property preservation business — some are focused on insurance, for example — and integrates with Safeguard’s internal systems, Mr. Mehok said.
“I’m not aware of another field service company that has its own,” he said.
The move to mobile
Neither is Eric S. Miller.
The use of mobile apps is growing in the property preservation business, but Safeguard — in developing its own app in-house — is on the “front edge” of the trend, said Mr. Miller, executive director of the National Association of Mortgage Field Services Inc., based in Stow.
Most companies, Mr. Miller noted, are using mobile apps developed by third-party providers, or they’re encouraging contractors in the field to sign into their websites using their smart phones.
“I think the ability to get the data in quicker, more real-time … those timeframes will continue to be pressured,” Mr. Miller said. “Better work, faster work, cheaper work, those are your three options. You’re going to see a concerted effort by the industry and by a lot of people to get some type of simplistic web-based service, or you’re going to see them go mobile.”
The nonprofit association itself is developing a mobile app that its member companies, which include Safeguard, can use to stay aware of problem properties, Mr. Miller said.
Safeguard does not yet ask its contractors, which include mom-and-pop businesses and regional companies, to use its mobile app, but the time will come, a spokeswoman said. At present, not every contractor is jumping aboard because many are accustomed to the way they’ve done business, said Jennifer Jozity, assistant vice president of inspections operations.
But those that do use the app should find it to be a more profitable, efficient way of doing business, Mr. Mehok said, and that should ring even truer as the company puts GPS capabilities to work for contractors.
Safeguard’s information technology team is working to set up proximity routing using Google Maps, wherein a contractor would be sent on assignments in an order that’s most efficient to avoid zigzagging around town. It also in recent months started leveraging GPS information, specifically longitude and latitude, so it can better identify when a contractor actually is reporting from — and inspecting — the wrong property.
Tapping the data mine
Safeguard’s IT team has rolled out more than the mobile app.
Using a data warehouse it implemented over the last 12 months, Safeguard is mining its data so it can share with clients when an area has more incidences of a certain type, such as mold or vandalism, and also what the probability of properties becoming vacant is in certain neighborhoods.
“We collect a lot of information that we then give back to our clients,” Mr. Mehok said, citing the 300 million data points collected about properties in any given month.
The data mining also will help Safeguard identify regions where the company needs to improve the quality of its work, executives say. Quality “heat maps” show the company where there may be need for training, corrective action or hiring more contractors, perhaps because deadlines aren’t being met or return visits to properties are more frequent.
The company also rolled out enhancements last month to its order processing system to automate work flow and improve management of its orders. The enhanced system will report to Safeguard’s vice president of operations how long employees spend processing orders, something Safeguard executives say is not intended to be used punitively, but to identify the more productive employees who could train others, Mr. Mehok said.
“Greater efficiencies will allow us to remain a market leader, better serve existing clients and attract new clients, recruit strong and talented employees, and better protect properties in our care,” Safeguard CEO Alan Jaffa said.
To view the online article, please click here.
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders, and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.